Chatting With The Good Fork's Sohui Kim: Red Hook, New Year's Eve, and Wearying of Steak and Eggs

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Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Sohui Kim's first-born is a restaurant
No one ever said it was easy to open a restaurant, but it's even harder to keep a restaurant running, turning out great food every single day. Beloved Red Hook stalwart The Good Fork celebrates its fourth anniversary next month. We caught up with the restaurant's executive chef and owner, Sohui Kim, who has just given birth to her second (or by some counts, third) child, about the challenges and joys of long-term restauranting. Kim was in the midst of making her famous dumplings and planning the first-ever New Year's Eve menu for The Good Fork, which she owns with her husband, Ben Schneider.

Check back here tomorrow for the second half of our interview with Kim, in which the chef reveals her favorite places for pizza, Korean food, and ramen, and what's in her refrigerator.

How is the Good Fork doing? Any news or thoughts about the last year?

Well, this coming month The Good Fork will be four years old.

Congratulations!

Thank you, yes, we're very happy. It's pretty incredibly because our business plan definitely didn't stretch this far. It was more: "We'll just see what happens!" We're extremely happy and proud, not only because we're going into our fourth year, but we just had our staff party, and we looked around the room and realized that we love and adore everyone who is a part of The Good Fork family.

A lot of workers have been very loyal, and have been with us for a while. The front of house crew has been with us from the beginning, and the back of house has a stellar crew. I'm home more now because of the kids, so I hired a chef de cuisine who's been a good friend of mine. She and I have similar vision. I'm still involved in running the kitchen and designing the menu, but I also have great people.

As far as business goes, the economy's been behind the slowdown of the industry, but we're still doing well. Weekends are still very busy; people still come in for parties; we have our loyal customers. So we're okay. In the restaurant business, it's great if you're okay.

Has it been difficult for you to be out of the kitchen a bit more?

It has. In the beginning, it was very hard. I'm a hands-on kind of person, and I consider The Good Fork my first baby. When people ask how it's doing, I say: My first born is doing fine on its own. We opened with me in the kitchen and Ben serving, a small mom and pop operation, no joke. But at a certain point, my doctor said: Okay, you're eight months pregnant, you need to get out of the kitchen. It was summer, and very hot.

We have had to trust our instincts when hiring people. And we've been fortunate to have good people come through our doors. Some people say: Oh the chef is not in the kitchen, so I won't go there. I didn't want people to be able to say that about The Good Fork. We have stellar people in there, and people can't tell me we don't. So our quality stays up and everyone's happy.

It's funny, at such a small restaurant, to be the executive chef telling everyone what to do, but it's good because everyone's on the same page. It's still my operation, I'm still in the kitchen and design the menu, but I have a really good chef de cuisine and great workers. The restaurant is actually just two blocks from my house, so my world really is about home and The Good Fork.

One of the reasons we opened the restaurant here is that we absolutely adore this neighborhood. It has a community feel. Like, I'm a city girl, I grew up in the Bronx, and this is really small town USA, like a little seaside town. When I walk to the restaurant, it's literally a block and a half, and I'll run into three people I know. It's really special.

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